Wooden Driveway Gates
Wooden gates can be beautiful, and many homeowners chose the natural look for their driveway gates. They can also be automated, but they need to be looked after and regularly maintained to keep them looking great and working well.
Many wooden gates start off looking beautiful but they can suffer from problems including warping, joints opening up, and surface coverings flaking off.
This article covers the pros and cons of choosing wooden gates, how they can be automated, the different types of wood available and what the alternatives are.
How Much Do Wooden Gates Cost?
Wooden driveway gates can cost just a few hundred pounds for a simple softwood gate. Larger gates or ones that have more intricate designs and are made of hardwood that will last much longer can cost thousands of pounds.
A pair of swing gates will usually cost more than a single sliding gate for the same driveway. Not only do two gates have to be produced but twice as much gate hardware and double the number of gate motors are needed.
What Types of Wooden Driveway Gates are Available?
Sliding Wooden Gates
Sliding wooden gates are usually close boarded so there are no gaps between the individual wooden sections. While this is a design feature it also means that there are no gaps for anything to get stuck in as a gate slides open.
Groundworks required in the installation of sliding gates include concrete foundations for the track across the driveway and supporting posts either side of the driveway.
Swing Gates Made of Wood
Swing gates made from wood include the traditional 5 bar gate and many close-boarded designs. These are made up of wooden slats that butt up against each other leaving no gaps. Open boarded versions have gaps that can be horizontal, vertical or diagonally depending on the orientation of the gate sections.
How Are Wooden Gates Made?
It is possible for a competent DIY woodworker with the right tools to build their own gates, but we don’t recommend it. Driveway gates must be strong enough for gate automation motors to be mounted to them safely. They must resist the weather as much as possible and they should look right at the front of your property.
There are so many ways that gate design and assembly can affect the weatherproofing of a gate and so many ways that their structure would be weakened by designs that don’t deal with aging well.
For instance, without a top rail over the exposed cut surface of a wooden upright, water will eventually get into the wood. And if that top rail is not convexly curved, water won’t run off it.
For these reasons and many more, buying wooden gates from a gate manufacturer is nearly always the best choice. However, gates can be mass produced and badly stored so buying from the right gate manufacturer is essential.
A good gate installer will have the experience of dealing with many gate manufacturers to know who is best for designing and building the type of wooden gates you want.
What wooden gate designs are available?
5 Bar Gates
5 bar gates or farm gates are usually single, but their design means that they’re light. They are most commonly assembled from four or more horizontal wooden sections with a fifth one running between a top corner and the opposite bottom corner. Sometimes, there’s a second diagonally piece running between the opposite corners to the first one.
Metal framed wooden gates
A metal frame encloses horizontal, vertical or diagonal wooden sections. The frame is often black and can be used to mount the gate motor arms. The wooden infill panels are usually butted up against each other to create a close boarded design with no gaps.
Close boarded gates
These are a little more private as the horizontal, vertical or diagonal boards that make up the gate have no gaps between them.
Open boarded gates
Gaps between the boards allow wind to pass between them but also allow passers-by to see through the gate.
What Types Of Wood Are Used To Make Wooden Gates?
Gates made from hardwood are usually longer lasting than softwood gates and the wood itself usually has let knots in it. This means that a hardwood gate could require less maintenance to stay looking good for longer. Many people also prefer the appearance of grain in wood rather than lots of knots. Some examples of hardwoods used to manufacture gates includes the following:
This is strong but it needs to be pressure treated to make it resistant to attack from insects and fungi.
Iroko is a long-lasting wood with a great lifespan and attractive grain patterns and colours.
European Oak is very long lasting as it is dense, and its high tannin content helps it resist fungal and insect attacks. For many it is also beautiful, but it comes at a high price.
Softwood is not as durable as hardwood but is usually cheaper. The exceptions to this are Red Cedar and Accoya.
Red Cedar has a high oil content that helps provide its unique smell and also makes this wood resistant to insect and fungal attack. Though it is not recommended, Red Cedar does not require a preservative coating to protect it, as it is naturally rot-resistant. However, uncoated Red Cedar turns a pleasant silver colour once weathered.
Pine is one of the most commonly used woods for making gates and one of the cheapest, but it needs to be treated and regularly maintained to last.
Accoya is a type of pine that has been treated with acetic acid. This makes it incredibly strong and long-lasting although it is also very expensive.
Manual Wooden Gates vs Automatic Wooden Gates
Gates are not cheap and adding automation ups the bill considerably. For this reason, some homeowners forgo having gate motors and automatic control systems installed on their gates and plan to open and close their gates by hand.
Unfortunately, this is a boring exercise that can leave the homeowner soaked if they need to get the car out while its raining and eventually many manual gates simply get left open. This obviously defeats the object of having gates in the first place, but it gets worse. When the owners of manual gates go on holiday, they usually try and close their gates when they go away. Unfortunately, wooden gates that are not used will eventually sag on their hinges and may seize up. Either way, closing them can be difficult. But leaving them open all year and then shutting them in Summer can give burglars an indication that the homeowners are away, so the security feature desired in the first place becomes the opposite.
Electric gates open and close automatically at the touch of a button so are usually closed. This gives a physical barrier across the driveway that is only open when in use. Consequently, thieves would have to get over the gate to get in and then back over it to get out. This is then an obstacle that makes your house less attractive proposition for them, so they look elsewhere.
How Do You Make Electric Wooden Gates?
Installing a gate automation system onto wooden driveway gates is a process that should only be dealt with by a professional gate installer. They will carry out a safety audit of the site and discus how you want to use your electric gates. They will then design a system that works best for your unique circumstances and includes your perfect style and design of gates.
Swing gates are great if you have room inside the driveway entrance for the gates to swing open into with out hitting anything. This obviously means that there has to be room for you to park cars away from where the gates move.
Sliding gates are often chosen when this space is not available, but they need room to slide into to one side of the driveway. Sliding gates are a great choice of automatic gates, but they’re rarely seen as manually operated gates.
Installing swing gates at the entrance to driveways that rise needs special consideration to ensure that each gate doesn’t ground itself on the rising drive before it is fully open. And sliding gates shouldn’t be installed on driveways that slope across their entrance. This puts extra strain on gate motors as the gate is moving uphill or downhill as it opens or closes.
In most cases, making existing manual gates automatic or buying new electric gates is a job for a professional gate installer.
What Are The Downsides To Using Wood To Make Gates?
Wood is a natural material that has ways to protect itself from attack when it’s a living tree. Once it’s dead and the protective bark has been removed and the naked wood is exposed to water, sunlight, insects, moulds and fungi, it will start to decay.
Joining sections of wood together and inserting other materials, such as steel nails, bolts or screws, that expand and contract differently from wood introduces opportunities for water to get into the wood.
Once water gets in, it expands the gate sections and increases its weight. This causes surface coatings to stretch and the wood to push against its neighbours. This also forces screws and bolts to get pulled through their holes slightly. As the gate dries in the sun, it shrinks back and loses weight as the water evaporates. This makes the surface protection looser and joints open up as the wood shrinks away from its neighbours.
The whole process is a vicious circle as it creates more ways for more water to get into the wood. Once water gets in, rot will eventually begin. This is the way wood decays naturally when a tree dies or a branch falls off.
What Are The Strengths Of Wood Gates?
While wooden driveway gates need a lot of maintenance to keep them looking good and to extend their lifetime as long as possible, wood is immensely popular for many reasons. Wooden gates are beautiful, natural and can be coated with paint, varnish or creosote with a little effort and time. Sections of a wooden gate bumped into by careless drivers are easily replaced. A wooden gate’s modular design means that damaged sections are easy to remove, and new ones are easy to cut to the right shape and size.
And as we all try to protect our World from our impact on it, it’s important to know that wood is a renewable resource and environmentally friendly. A tree’s growth will remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and a gate that has reached the end of its lifetime will decay naturally.
Looking After Wooden Gates
There are plenty of ways to keep wood looking as good as possible for as long as possible and most focus on keeping water out. Treatments with chemicals that deter insect attack and fungal growth are also effective but require chemicals and sometimes expensive treatment processes.
The simplest way to keep gates made from wood looking their best is to stay on top of their maintenance. Ideally, every year any flaky paint would be sanded off, rotten wood should be cut out, gaps can be filled with wood filler or new wood and the whole gate can then be repainted.
Alternatives To Wooden Gates
If you think that wooden driveway gates are great, but you don’t want the hassle that comes with owning them, what are the alternatives?
PVC gates are cheap and come in a range of designs but they’re plastic and not to everyone’s taste. They also suffer from twisting and motor mounting bolts can pull through the material.
Iron gates are usually more ornate in design and open boarded so there are gaps that allow anyone to see what’s behind them. Iron gates also come with their own maintenance issues as they rust if the bare metal is exposed to air and water.
Stainless steel gates are highly resistant to corrosion but are expensive and usually assembled into the more ornate designs seen in iron gates.
Aluminium gates are built in sections like wooden gates into styles that perfectly mimic wooden gate designs. Aluminium is naturally resistant to corrosion, and aluminium gates are supplied with a tough outer coating to protect them even more. This surface coating also gives the gates their colour or wood grain finish to complete the wood-effect look.
Composite gates are a good alternative to wood as they look just like real wood but require very little maintenance. They aren’t affected by water absorption like wood but are approximately the same price as hardwood gates.
Is Wood The Best Choice For Driveway Gates?
Wooden gates are beautiful, natural and come in a wide range of designs and styles to suit many different properties and personal preferences. But the owners of wooden gates need to keep on top of preventative maintenance, and all wooden gates will eventually succumb to warping and their joints will open up.
We rarely install gates that are made of only wood. Our alternatives use steel frames to give the rigidity required to avoid warping if wood infill panels are required.
Our favoured alternative to wooden infill panels are composite panels with surface coatings that perfectly mimic various types of wood. The steel frame is corrosion-resistant and gives the composite panels the required strength. The finished gates are strong, beautiful, and free from rot and rust.